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Behavioral indicators of sexual abuse

The most frequent initial manifestation of sexual abuse in a young child will be a change in behavior. There is no single behavioral change that is specific for sexual abuse, but the following is a partial list of behaviors that, if persistent and if there is no other obvious explanation, should raise the possibility of sexual molestation:

  1. New onset of bedwetting or fecal soiling in a previously toilet-trained child;
  2. Unexplained changes in sleep or appetite;
  3. New fears, particularly of a particular person, or of people with certain physical characteristics;
  4. Persistent or obsessive curiosity about sexual intercourse or genitalia beyond that expected for age

The mimicking actual sexual activity by a prepubertal child, particularly when the behavior closely simulates intercourse, always warrants a report to Child Protective Services, as this behavioral symptom is highly correlated with sexual abuse.